Nickolas Grace: Tell Me Candidely | Part Four

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Nickolas Grace  for the campaign, Fishlove 

The final instalment of the exclusive Nickolas Grace interview. The interview which was conducted on two separate occasions over coffee in Notting Hill revealed to me a warm, funny, and sincere individual. One that also has an undeniable talent. I would like to thank Nickolas for his time and hope you all enjoy reading the final part of the series.

Any Advice?
“Don’t do it. Haha! We are in a very strange time. Things have changed a lot. Young people in reality shows think ‘Ah I’m famous now, it is easy to get into’. But it’s not easy to sustain.”

“What saddens me is they think they don’t need to go to drama school or they don’t need to study. I always say go to drama school if they are serious about it. There are many many more people now that come in for lots of different reasons. Our union, Equity, is now weak because you don’t have to be part of the union. Anyone can act. Anyone can employ anyone. When I have the chance to employ people as a director I always say I’m only going to employ people who are members of Equity.

“So I’d say don’t do it unless you want to study hard and want to go to drama school.”

Proudest Moments

paul McCartney
“I am very fortunate I have been given two honorary degrees. I’m a Fellow of the Royal Central School, and a Companion of LIPA. I received one from Terence Stamp and one from Sir Paul McCartney.”

“Central had asked me who I would like to present me with my honorary degree. As Alan Bates and Terence Stamp were my two mentors. I asked Alan Bates to present my degree. Sadly, Alan Bates was just beginning to be ill, and said ‘I don’t think I can do it but I’ll be there’. He came in a wheelchair bless him and sat at the back of the hall. So Terence was kind enough to present me with my degree , and it was quite funny: my best mate giving me my honorary degree. That made me cry too. At least my mum was there, and it made her quite proud.”

Amazing Moments
“I have indeed. Who’d have thought I’d work with Madonna in Evita. Alan Parker who is one if my favourite directors wanted me to be in the film. “

Madonna… Sugar or Spice?
“A nightmare. Haha! She’s a great star. The first time we met was amusing. She was tired and it was the last day of shooting. Madonna had done a twelve week shoot for Evita all over Europe and Argentina too. So I go there at 6:30am, to go to make up and costume. I’m sitting in the dressing room to start and there’s a knock on the door and it’s Jonathan Pryce who I’ve known for a long time. He says ‘Listen Nick we’ve done twelve weeks so don’t fuck it up alright’. So I say ‘oh thank you’ haha. No pressure.”

“So I think I’ll be on in a minute. It’s now 9:30am, I have a cup of coffee and she’s not ready so I go back to the room and then there’s another knock at the door and it’s Antonio Banderas who I’d met once before in Spain, when I played Lorca. He says ‘Nickolas remember do not fuck up this movie’ I thought this is obviously a wind up. Haha. So it gets to lunch time and Alan Parker says ‘I’m really sorry there has been a bit of a problem, you go and have some lunch’. So by now I’m quite tense. So I go to get some lunch come back and then Alan says ‘come down I’ll show you the set’, so we go and look at the big set at Pinewood studios. Then suddenly there is a temperature change in the studio. I can feel it. I see Alan strain a little, and you see these two bodyguards come in. I think to myself she’s coming. She walks in and Alan Parker says ‘Oh M, this is my mate Nick, Nickolas Grace, this is Madonna’ she snaps back ‘Don’t touch my fucking hair!’

“I’m like ‘No of course I’m not going to touch your fucking hair’. So that was my first line from Madonna. I think back now, and at the time I was thinking inside I really mustn’t do anything wrong. You can imagine how the day proceeded, but by the end she changed her attitude. She said ‘I really like you’, and made the sign of the cross on my face. ‘I said is that the Madonna blessing?’ and she smiled mischievously.

“You’ll get the full version in my auto-biography. It probably won’t come out until I’m in my 80’s because I want to tell the truth.”

Thank You, Nickolas!

Read the entire interview here: Part one | Part Two | Part Three

To find out more and read why Nickolas is naked holding a fish please see below link:

http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/celebrities-strip-down-and-snuggle-seafood-support-sustainable-harvests-154293

Photographer | Roberto De Micheli

Public Description caught up with the very talented fashion photographer Roberto De Micheli.

De Micheli’s work pushes boundaries to create images that are emotional, edgy, and original. Read on to find out more about his work and future projects.

When did you take an interest in Photography?

I’d say more or less 10 years ago. I started as many do with taking travel photos. Then a combination of positive feedback and GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) made a casual pastime avalanche into a passion that took no prisoners where my other hobbies are (were) concerned. The turning point, I believe, was in 2006 when I made the deliberate decision to take more control of my photography, meaning to go from random snaps to trying to achieve something with a photo. From then onwards it really kicked into high gear.

Who inspired you? Whose work has influenced you most?

Since I’ve started dabbling in fashion photography, more or less since the end of 2010, I always felt attracted by the sub-genre called “editorial”. The reason I started was, simply, the fact that a fellow photographer told me that he was going to shoot 2 models near where I live and asked me if I wanted to join them. There isn’t a precise genesis of my preference for editorial that I can describe. I could have tried my mettle with beauty or commercial or glamour, but somehow I decided that I was interested more into telling a story rather than showing a product or curves. Once I stumbled upon the work of Tim Walker, it was a revelation. That is the kind of photography I want to do. Elegant and (a lot) quirky. Imaginative and still technically excellent. Another great I look up to is David LaChapelle.

What makes your photographs stand out from the average photographer?

That’s difficult to say! 🙂

Of course I like to think that I am creative and experimental and that I have my own style and that I have mastered the techniques I use.

I guess something I have understood that may set me apart from the “average” (whatever that means) fashion photographer is the importance of the team. Any successful shoot is the fruit of the collaboration of a group of people. This group includes, as a minimum, photographer, models, make-up / hair stylists, wardrobe stylist and digital retouchers. In big productions the team may also include art directors, lightning specialists and designers. Of course, some people can perform more than one of these roles – e.g. the photographer can also set lights and do post processing. It depends on skills.

In any case the contribution of these roles cannot be overstated.

What does photography mean to you?

It is my passion. I think that everyone should have a passion in their lives and I am very happy to have found mine, and that it is completely separated from my day-to-day job. It is also my creative outlet and again I am grateful that I have one since my job is much less prone to go wild and be experimental. From time to time I toy with the notion of trying my luck with photography as a profession, but between my responsibilities as husband and father and the freedom that it being a hobby allows, I really think that I am in a good place right now.

One of the main discussion points amongst photographers are about the use of digital photography. Do you use digital cameras?

Indeed I do. They were already prominent when I got “serious” and in any case I do like the immediate feedback you get from digital cameras. Having said so, what I do not like about digital cameras is the tendency, especially with modern models, to add more and more automatism. To put it bluntly, I do not like the camera to do the thinking for me. I want to be in control of taking the photo and I am not really interested in what the engineers who designed the camera think makes a good photo. Therefore I disable all such nifty features and use my camera in a very manual way, as it were a film one, albeit with a digital sensor inside… and of course keeping in mind that the sensor responds to light differently from film.

If yes, what is the influence of digital technology on your photography?

Immediate feedback and the ability of experimenting without the fear of wasting expensive film… which is a boon and a curse at the same time (read: coming home from a shoot with hundreds of images and having to spend a lot of time to select the few candidates worthy of post processing)

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Is it fair to alter reality by adjusting images in post-production?

Well… at risk of opening up a can of worms… it depends! What is the purpose of a photo?

If you are a photo journalist or your photos are used as an historical medium, then of course post processing can be done but only without altering the message / story. Otherwise we talk of propaganda.

Even in my own little world, when I shoot landscapes, cityscapes, street, wildlife and macro (my nowadays secondary interests in photography) I tend to do little post processing. I crop, I adjust exposure and colour and sharpness. Sometimes I remove objects that in my mind detract from the composition. Sometimes I create panoramas or HDR mergers. But I do not feel like I am altering reality.

Now, for what fashion photography is concerned… post processing is rife and it goes from colour correction to skin correction to body remodelling. Usually I don’t do body remodelling (although it has happened) unless I feel it’s needed for composition’s sake. Skin is always retouched. Even if I could afford models with perfect features / skin, there are cases when everything is perfect but for (say) the position of one foot… so I may decide that it’s better to salvage an otherwise good photo rather than not delivering for purity’s sake. My goal is to retouch (or to have retouched) an image till it looks good to me, but not over-retouched (knowing when to stop being actually one of the hardest lessons to learn in post processing).

In the end, you can aspire to beautiful images, but if you don’t have the budget / clout to get access to established models, great dresses and accessories and locations… you can either give up or accept that something will need correction in post.

Having said so… the kinds of dresses / accessories that are used in editorial fashion photography are usually designed for models that have body shapes that are not your average type. This normally fuels a lot of debate about the influence that this has on body-conscious people, providing them with unobtainable and ultimately unhealthy ideals. I do think this is an issue which post processing is tangential to. Meaning that post processing may sometimes exacerbate the unreachable perfection of the subject… but in my mind this is on top of an existing trend, not a cause in itself. It just makes it easier to show a perfect body without the need to book a perfect model.

As mentioned, I personally try to avoid body shaping by either using the right model for the job or, failing that, by using the right lights / poses / compositions. And I try to keep skin retouching to an acceptable minimum.

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How important is it for a photographer to “connect” with your subject/model to bring out their true self?

In short… a lot! Although it depends on the model too. There are models that can pose and emote with no need of a connection with me, while there are others that start very nervous and apprehensive. In both cases I still like to establish a connection with them, at the very least because I like to think that I am a decent human being! But, especially with models that are not consummate pros, it is fundamental to put them at ease and try to have fun to get the best out of them. A good trick is to create a “story” they need to act to. I can go from alien princess lost on a wild dangerous world to beautiful socialite stalked by paparazzi to party girl that fails to get the attention of a love interest. The sky is the limit… and I have yet to find a model that doesn’t like to have a story to act on.

Locations and weather conditions are critical aspects to a successful picture. How do you plan if unpredictable factors occur?

I love shooting on location. I think it gives something more to the photos. Especially for editorial photography. But there is a but. Costs and time and risks they all spiral up when you shoot on location compared to a studio. Travel costs. Models paid for a full day rather than half day. Risk that dresses get damaged. Risk that the weather does not cooperate (I am talking about rain if we are in the open… exposure-wise I am much less worried). Risk of equipment failing (never found a battery-operated flash head that can achieve the advertised number of flashes on a full battery). Risk of someone coming up to us and asking us to stop shooting. Risk of having crowds of people in the frame.

How do you deal with all this? Be prepared and flexible. Pray. Allow for redundancy (especially models and lights). Allow for more time. Research the location first. Use a location where shelter is available. Bring the right lights and know how to use them. Have people to help (lights on stands + reflectors / umbrellas + wind = disaster). Use the elements such as natural shapes or the sky (a nasty looking cloudy sky can often be a marvellous background – hot midday sun usually is not your friend). Frame differently to avoid the crowds or that pesky car park.

And do use the location! Show some of it 🙂

I am usually a sorry mess after a location shoot, but boy are they fun!

Could you describe the process of a photo-shoot set up in a studio?

  1. Agree on styling and model selection
  2. Book the models and the studio and whatever equipment is needed
  3. Procure clothes and accessories
  4. Keep fingers crossed
  5. On the day, do get to the studio in time
  6. Have drinks and munchies for everyone
  7. Pray that all the people involved do arrive (in time being a nice surprise)
  8. Assess the model body/skin/hair (unless it’s a model we’ve worked with already… many times models are not totally honest about their measures)
  9. Leave the model with make-up / hair (after having agreed with the stylist the look that needs to be achieved). In the meantime set up lights and backgrounds and props
  10. Model gets dressed and accessorized. Second model (if any) gets under make-up / hair. Light tests
  11. Shoot the first model while the second model gets ready
  12. Get in a pattern: shoot one model while the other changes make-up / hair / style
  13. Pack up everything, exchange contact details as needed
  14. Select the photos for post processing
  15. Send the photos to the retoucher with instructions
  16. Share the final versions with the team and try to get them published
  17. Plan for the next shoot

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Colour vs Black & White. Do you have preferences and why?

Colour if I really have to choose. I come from wildlife and macro photography and colour is important to me. I think b&w suits architectural and street photography a lot. But I am ambivalent when it comes to fashion photography. It depends on styling (clothes and accessories and make-up).

I shoot RAW so this is a decision I can take afterwards. I often have both versions done and decide at the very end.

If I am shooting a geometric style in bold primary colours then I may consider b&w from the start. Meaning, usually, that I will want strong and harsh lightning and that I will ask the model to give me strong geometric poses.

When going for b&w you lose the discrimination factor of colours (d’hu) and therefore you need to compensate with lights and geometry.

Roberto5

Amongst your work, which one is your favourite and why?

Being selective with your own work is a painful thing to learn 🙂

As my taste and standards evolve, my favourite phots change (and old favourites become “what was I thinking” kind of things). Currently, these are some of my favourites.

The reason I like these photos is the impact they have. It is the apparent simplicity that hides a great deal of complexity. It is, most of all, the pride I feel when I show them and I can say “I have created this”

Do you step out of your comfort zone to be creative?

I have a little rule of my own. I need to do something different every shoot. Be it use a new piece of equipment, use a new technique, a new model, a new type of style, a new location… something gotta be new.

This may sound trivial. But I believe that one of the things that I love about photography is the fact that it can be infinitely challenging and it can keep your interest alive indefinitely… if you let it.

In a sense I could answer “no” to your question. I’ve done different types of fashion photography but I keep going back to editorial. But in reality, the scope is so vast in editorial photography… I think that if I am not being creative on a shoot then it is my fault.

Having said so, there is another aspect to this… as your ambition grows, you start hitting a “glass ceiling” in terms of your ability to get access to better model, better styling, better locations, better toys, etc. Money is an issue. Time is another. When you start hitting these boundaries (i.e. the models you have easy access to do not cut it anymore) then you either become creative and take some risks, or you stagnate. So for me it becomes a matter of necessity as well.

What advice would you give to an amateur photographer starting out into photography?

Let’s focus on fashion photography ok?

My advice is…

  • Be passionate and keep at it – it is difficult, at least at the beginning, to compare your initial works with the output of established photographers. There are reasons for that but most can be overcome if you really want it.
  • Invest in your passion – I do not mean go and buy expensive cameras and lenses even before you start. By all means start small, most modern equipment will do at the beginning. What I mean is that, at the beginning it is fine to experiment with friends or random people found on Facebook (say), but if you get ambitious, you will soon discover that better models, talent, styling, location, etc. invariably, all else being equal, lead to better results. The catch being that, until you are established, better talent may require compensation to work with you
  • There’s always something new to learn – I thought I knew about photography already… but when I started fashion photography I quickly realized that there were a number of skills I needed to develop. Controlled lightning is key of course, but you need as well to learn how to direct models, how to communicate with your team, how to plan and how to network
  • Team – fashion photography is a team effort and while your first shoot may be just you and the model, once things get more sophisticated you will need a team. Be nice to them and they will be nice to you
  • Network – you need to work with the right people and therefore you need to find them and get in touch with them. And you need a portfolio to show them which is good enough to convince them to work with you. It is a slow process and it takes time to build up. Well unless you’re filthy rich of course…
  • Purity (lack of) – I started with thinking: I am a photographer and taking photos is what I like to do. Well, fast forward a lot of shoots, now if I actually take photos for 1/4th of the time of a shoot, then I consider myself lucky. And that’s on the day of the shoot, without taking into account the organizing before and the retouching after. Do not get too hung up on only taking photos. Great photos come out of a lot of preparation which has nothing to do with actually clicking your camera’s shutter button.

Roberto6

Thank you Roberto!

Images: Roberto De Micheli

http://robertodemicheli.4ormat.com/

Greta Scacchi discusses her dream role in The Glass Menagerie

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Image courtesy of Headlong.co.uk

“We realise the saddest moments are sometimes also the hysterical moments “

Meeting one of your film icons is not an everyday occurrence. So when I was granted an opportunity this week to have an interview with Emmy-winning actress Greta Scacchi, I immediately jumped at the chance.

Greta is currently on tour with her latest role; in Ellen McDougall’s production of Tennessee Williams’ play ‘The Glass Menagerie’. Now in its final week, ‘The Glass Menagerie’ held one final performance in London this evening, 7th November at Richmond Theatre and is now moving onto Warwick Arts Centre, Tuesday 10th November until 14th November 2015.

The Glass Menagerie is a memory play, and its action is drawn from the memories of Tom Wingfield. Tom is a character in the play, The play is based on the playwright Tennessee Williams and his family life. Greta plays the role of Amanda, the frustrated and overbearing mother of Tom. Produced by Headlong Theatre Company, the play has been given a modern approach; with all the preconceptions and traditions of the original Tennessee Williams play removed. 

Plot Summary

By night, Tom lives the life of an assassin, an outlaw, a czar of the underworld, via his trips to the movies. By day, he works in a factory. In the apartment he shares with mother Amanda (Greta Stacchi) and sister Laura, the air hangs thick with the scent of sickly sweet flowers and his mother’s oppressive nostalgia. Laura barely survives it, a shadow of herself, clinging desperately to her only solace, a beloved glass menagerie.

When Amanda insists Tom bring home a gentleman caller for Laura, the fragile dreams of all three are shattered with consequences they may never escape.

A scene from The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams @ The Courtyard Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse. Directed by Ellen McDougall. (Opening 11-09-15) ©Tristram Kenton 09/15 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com

A scene from The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams | Greta Scacchi seen her with Erin Doherty

On the day of the interview with Greta, I arrive at reception at the same time as a delivery of fresh fish. A young man is carefully handling the crate. I wait behind him breathing in the faint fish scented air while he talks to the receptionist. I think no more of it and rush on to Studio 3 to meet Greta.

I open the door, to a room of high energy. Greta Scacchi sees me, and rushes over to greet me with sparkling eyes and the warmest of smiles. Greta has a way of making you feel at ease immediately. Greta is distracted though. She is in the middle of a busy photo shoot. It feels hot, noisy, and chaotic. Friendly faces, rushing around. Buzzing with creative energy. Hair and make up is in full swing. Photographer is poised. I see the fish again. A crate of dead fish sits proudly in the middle of the room. This shoot is not for Greta. I scan the room, and stare straight at a lady’s hair free vagina. The stark naked actress in her 50’s, stands looking fabulous and body confident, and rightly so. (Her body looked better than most 20 year olds). I try to carry on oblivious as if this is a perfectly normal situation, while the actress poses up a storm with a still gawping strategically placed fish.

Once Greta is happy that the shoot can continue without her, we proceed with our interview. I can see Greta giving a mix of protective and approving glances back to the shoot ensuring her naked guest is fine and looked after. I soon learn that I have unknowingly come along to Greta’s other passion, her campaign Fishlove which she has co-founded since 2009. 

Greta has regularly been defined by her beauty and sex symbol image. I am keen to know how she feels in her new skin playing the role of Amanda, a faded southern belle. “It is a dream come true. It is a classic role for an actress of my age. It is a part that nearly all actresses hope to do. So I was thrilled to win the part.”

A scene from The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams @ The Courtyard Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse. Directed by Ellen McDougall. (Opening 11-09-15) ©Tristram Kenton 09/15 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com

A scene from The Glass Menagerie with Eric Kofi Abrafa

Greta has nothing but praise for her cast, Tom Mothersdale, Erin Doherty, and Eric Kofi Abrafa. 

“They are all young enough to be my own children, and I am stunned at their discipline’. “I think all three of them are promising actors and we will see a lot more of them.”

What was it like working with Ellen McDougall? “She is definitely a shinning star”. Ellen McDougall is part of an important new wave of young directors who favour a contemporary stripped-back approach.

A scene from The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams @ The Courtyard Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse. Directed by Ellen McDougall. (Opening 11-09-15) ©Tristram Kenton 09/15 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com

A scene from The Glass Menagerie with Tom Mothersdale

“Ellen is so clear about what she wants, it is wonderful and at the same time quite alarming to find someone so young with that much conviction. Ellen’s preparation process in rehearsal is something I hadn’t encountered before. It is very thorough. We spent the first week researching the period and all the characters. Including ones that are just lightly mentioned, like the landlord or the boss at Tom’s work. Every character was thoughly researched, so it become real to us in a sensory kind of way. Meaning, layer-by-layer was built in rehearsals over a 4 week period. Very intense. We had to let go of any preconceptions about the roles. Ellen is also very perceptive, she observes everything that actors bring to a character”. 

What would you like to say to readers interested in seeing the play ‘The Glass Menagerie’?

“Tennessee is really ahead of his time with dealing with the strife of bringing up a broken family, through those times when there is so much conflict. It is a very harrowing play, and all four characters have a lot of disappoint, disappear and struggles in their life. It couldn’t be more harrowing.  Yet it manages to come across also very funny, quite naturally.  Through the paring away it becomes timeless. The humour in the lines comes to the surface and we realise the saddest moments are sometimes the hysterical moments.”

After seeing Greta’s commanding performance this week myself, I strongly recommend going to see this play. Tickets can be purchased from Headlong and at the Warwick Theatre

Special thanks to Greta Scacchi for her interview with Public Description.

Look out for special feature on the Fishlove campaign here on Public Description in the next few weeks.

Let’s Talk Fashion: Tara Sillery

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Tara Sillery of PR Passion, is one of the most prominent Fashion PR execs in the Middle East right now. Along with numerous TV and radio appearances to being the founder and owner of the successful StyleME concept, this glamazon is also one of the most hard working in the business.  So needless to say, I was truly grateful that Tara could spare some time in her crazily busy schedule to talk with myself for Public Description.

Elle: I can imagine this is the question you most get asked, how did you first get into the fashion business? 

Tara: I have always been obsessed with fashion, even from a young age I would drive my poor Mother crazy as I was always playing in her wardrobe!  I was always making changes to clothes by adding my own style or making my own clothes (well tried to!).

My Mum is a huge fashion lover so I was introduced to the likes of Mary Quant from a young age! However, my career path led me into investment banking but with the encouragement from my family and a former CEO in London I followed my dreams and got into the world of fashion!!

My first client was one of my idols, the amazing couture designer Christian Lacroix and I worked with him to launch his first ever interior project in the Middle East……..since that day almost 5 years ago it’s been a whirlwind of fashion and lots of fun !

Elle: What’s been the highlight of your career so far? 

Tara: There have been so many amazing moments it’s difficult to pin down one particular thing to be honest.  Meeting and working with superstars such as Christian Lacroix and the late Andree Putman in Paris were amazing moments in my career.  However, I still get butterflies of excitement when I meet young talented designers and know there will be many more highlights ahead as I have so many superstars on my radar!  Working with the amazing MTV network has been so amazing too and I have some really exciting TV shows lined up with them this summer too.

Elle: You must lead a very hectic lifestyle, how do you switch off and relax?

Tara: That’s a VERY good question!!!  I have to admit, it’s very difficult to switch off as am working on so many different time-zones from London and Paris to LA so I am lucky that I don’t need much sleep!  The biggest form of relaxation is spending time with my friends and having some much required “normal” time.

Elle: What are some tips you have for girls who want to update their wardrobes without buying all new clothes?

Tara: Mix and match!  I am so lucky that I am given so many amazing clothes and shoes from my designers but when I shop I am a lover of all high street brands.  One doesn’t have to spend massive amounts of money on brands to look good.  I am also into recycling!  My friends and I swap and exchange clothes all the time – that way you feel like you have something brand new without having to spend the money!

Elle: Whose celebrity style do you covet most?

Tara: I am totally and utterly obsessed with Charlize Theron…..she always looks amazing and pulls off every look to perfection.

Elle: Who do you see as the stand out designer of the moment?

Tara: Regionally we have SO much talent.  However, for the past four years I have been in LOVE with the talented Golkar brothers who are of Iranian decent and live in Dubai.  It’s so exciting for me to see them shine and rise and I know they are going to be the next biggest thing to come out of the region.  The Emperor 1688 is their couture label…check them out.

tara sillery

Elle: What’s a wardrobe staple you can’t live without?

Tara: Shoes…. am OBSESSED!!!!!  My ultimate favourite at the moment is Aennis Eunis from Jordan.  His shoes are so comfortable and he is one of the nicest down to earth designers ever.

Elle: Who inspires you the most?

Tara: That’s a difficult one.  I live in the Middle East and there are so many different inspirational figures here.  I cannot really pinpoint anybody in the industry as I have so many I would love to name.  Therefore,  my biggest inspiration is my Mum as without her I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Elle: Can you share your fashion predictions?

Tara: I think Denim and stripes are going to be crazy this summer!!!  I am getting so bored of blazers as they have been over-done in the region so am predicting after telling all of my designers this that funky “bomber jackets” will be huge…you heard it here first!!!

Elle: What’s next for Tara?

Tara: Ideally…a holiday!!!  Realistically…a crazy year ahead.  I am working closely with an amazing LA based styling company called StylePR and we have lots of exciting celebrities to dress for the Oscar’s and Grammy’s.  I am also working on my concept of StyleME which I am hosting in Qatar and Saudi this year.  In between that I have some very exciting projects I am working on with MTV Lebanon so I have to get ready for those shows in the summer.   Downtime………what’s that!!?  I wouldn’t change my hectic life for anything as I LOVE what I do and am so grateful to have the opportunities I’ve experienced.

Elle: Tara you are an inspiration, thank you for your interview!

tara sillery

Credits:
Photographer: Elmer Magallenes
Tara is wearing: Victoria Strange Couture

Nickolas Grace: Tell Me Candidely | Part Three

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Most Memorable Role
“That’s always one of the worst questions. How do you choose? It’s either fulfillment or success. So when you can combine the two that’s marvellous.”
“Being asked to play the role of Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited, changed my career because Brideshead was such a big hit. Antony Blanche was such an outrageous character. He was much larger than life. I was working with fantastic actors, a great producer called Derek Granger, and it was really down to him that it worked.
“An incredible cast, including, Gielgud, Olivier, Claire Bloom, Jeremy Irons, and Anthony Andrews. That changed my career, and people came started coming to me with offers. Which was fantastic. Then another performance that I felt at home, and in which I felt I accomplished something, was playing Mozart in Amadeus. That came out of Brideshead. I played Mozart opposite Frank Finlay as Salieriat in the West End. It was so fulfilling and I knew I could carry it off. Peter Shaffer was very flattering, and said yes ‘I think you are probably my Mozart’. That was great.
“In 1986 I was asked to play Lorca in the Spanish film TV series about Federico García Lorca, a famous Spanish poet. He was assassinated under Franco. Hear was the irony, to play this guy in a Spanish movie not knowing any Spanish, and having failed Spanish A level.
“At first they said ‘Don’t worry you can do it in English, and we will dub you’. So I did as much homework as I could. Day 1 we are on the film set and the wonderful director, Juan Antonio Bardem, and Javier Bardem’s uncle, asked if I could say my lines in Spanish as it was better for the dubbing, and I was like ‘Well, I can’t’. And he said ‘You try, you try’. So from then on I tried to learn as much as I could in Spanish. Playing Lorca was amazing.”

On Directing
“There was a wonderful organisation now long gone called the British Theatre Association and they owned two buildings in Fitzroy Square. Can you imagine what they are worth now? It was founded by George Bernard Shaw and Harley Granville-Barker, and it was a link between professional and amateur theatre. They would do summer courses for students to learn about acting. The teachers from the major drama schools would come and do voice and movement with us.”
“Then the BTA asked me in 1965 if I would direct the British entry for the Inter drama Festival in Berlin. So I directed my first play, Tobias and the Angel. I knew immediately that I liked directing, and I was 17. The play won the festival.
“Then 3 years later, in 1968, when I was at Central they asked me to direct the next British entry. .They didn’t want to release me from Central because it was term time, eventually they did, so being ‘big headed Nickolas Grace’, I adapted three plays by WB Yeats and called it The Hawk’s Well , and put it in at The Mercury theatre in Notting Hill Gate, which is now Charles Harts home. We then took it to Berlin and had another great time. So I have always enjoyed directing ever since.”

Stage, Screen or Directing?
“Teaching. I do think we should give back. I was lucky enough to have fantastic training at Central, so I do try and give back. I teach and direct at Central when I can, and also go up to Liverpool to teach at Paul McCartney’s drama school called LIPA (Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts). So I go up there when I can.”
“I’m a huge fan of his and he really does put his money where his mouth is. His old school, The Liverpool institute was derelict and was going to be knocked down. So he said ok I’ll do a deal with the council, I’ll save the building and renovate it. So he put a lot of money and restored the beautiful Victorian building, modern, and it’s expanding next door into the old art school. It’s a really good drama school. He goes at least once a term to work with the students. I’m very lucky because I get fulfilment from all my work. I do love filming because the camera can take you anywhere it says I’ve got you now and I’m taking you on this journey.
“I have attached myself to certain charities including theatrical charities. One of the other charities is The Place To Be, which looks after kids from broken or dysfunctional families. The Duchess of Cambridge has become patron which is great. They do a lot of good work.”

Read the entire interview here: Part One | Part Two | Part Four

Nickolas Grace: Tell Me Candidely | Part Two

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This is the second instalment of the exclusive Nickolas Grace Interview. You can read Part One here too.
Part One

What Now
“Ironically, I failed Spanish A level. I rang Vanessa and asked if I could come and talk to her. I didn’t get my 3 A levels. She said well you’ve got to apply to all of the drama schools. I said but they are all full now, it’s almost August.”
‘Never mind she said You must write to them all.’
“So I did. Cutting a long story short, Royal Central had one vacancy, and offered me an audition if I wanted it.
“I went along on whatever day and there were about fifty other people, then it got down to twenty and then down to ten, and then two. It was me and this incredibly handsome boy, and I thought well at least I can say I nearly got in and this really handsome boy did. By the end of the afternoon they said right, Nickolas Grace come down to room E, and I waited and waited and no one came so I thought god why can’t they just tell me. So I crept into the office and said ‘Excuse me, I’m Nickolas Grace and I’ve been waiting’ they went ‘ what did you say your name was?’ I said again ‘Nickolas Grace’ she went ‘ oh you are in, you’re in, sorry we forgot to come and tell you’.
“Three years later I finished college and the head of the school asked me, ‘Do you remember your audition?’ I said ‘Well how could I forget?!’ He said ‘Do you remember there was a classically handsome boy that auditioned with you?’ I said ‘Yes’. He went on ‘Well he’s Helmut Berger and he’s a bit of a film star now’. So I was a lucky boy to get in but I thought if I hadn’t maybe I’d have been a film star too.
“Getting into Central was my dream. It’s where Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft, Vanessa Redgrave, Julie Christie had all gone. So getting in and doing three years there was fantastic. I was very very lucky.”

Proud Parents
“Yes they was proud, but they didn’t like to show it. My Mum told me that when any visitors come round, dad would say, ‘have you seen this bit from Brideshead Revisited, Robin of Sherwood, or Col Porter, look at this look at this etc…'”
“When he came to see me in my show I did in the west end in 1991, he came secretly to a matinee because he didn’t want to come backstage. He was proud of me but he couldn’t come round to me and say ‘fantastic’. He was a bit scared of showing his emotions. I’m one of four: a very happy family, and always secure.”

Lights, Camera, Action
“Well my first job funnily enough was at Frinton in Essex. The joke always was if you can act, you’ll go straight into films or telly. And if you can’t act you’ll go ito weekly rep at Frinton-on-Sea in Essex. So Lynda Bellingham and I got offered Frinton on Sea weekly rep. Oh god. Haha. But it was the best job in the world because you’d just spent three years studying hard doing dancing, movement, voice. having to learn a play a week was putting everything into practice. So it was great. When we got there, feeling a little bit low, we looked on the big board in the Women’s Institute Hall which is where the summer theatre was, and it said previous members of the Frinton Theatre company included Julie Christie, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael Dennison, so we thought, that’s not bad. We had a great summer. Then I went into rep in Manchester.”

Role Models
“It started from aged eight when I saw Sir Michael Redgrave play Hamlet. Also seeing Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Alec Guinness. Alec Guinness was a great character actor. They were my heroes as a school boy before I went to Central. Seeing Vanessa Redgrave at Stratford playing Rosalind. It was an incredible production. It made her a star. She was beautiful. I always remember her being this stunning girl. So both she and her father inspired me. Also because at that time, Redgrave was one of our most versatile actors. He could do the classics. He was – very famous Richard II and Hamlet. Then I saw him in a farce, ‘Out Of Bounds’ in the West End and I thought I want to be as versatile as that.”
“Then I saw Olivier at the National Theatre and I realised he probably was the greatest actor of his generation. Because he could do the lot. He was incredible.
“I was lucky enough after drama school and Rep to get into The Royal Shakespeare Company, there was Dame Eileen Atkins playing Rosalind, Sir Alan Bates playing ‘Petruchio’, and many other great actors. I was very very lucky.”

Part three coming soon.

Nickolas Grace: Tell Me Candidely | Part One

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This is the first of a four part interview with the legendary Nickolas Grace.
From playing Albert Einstein in Dr Who to the Spanish poet, Federico García Lorca. The versatile actor and director is probably most loved and remembered for his roles as the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham Robert de Rainault and the flamboyant Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited.

Nickolas shares some of his memorable achievements to date with the readers of Public Description in his own honest, humble and warm hearted style.

Where It All Began

“I’m one of those boring people that knew I always wanted to be an actor right from when I was little. Some background quickly. All my family are from Liverpool. Liverpudlian. So I love to pretend I’m Liverpudlian. But I’m not. Paul McCartney calls me a ‘Plastic Scouser’ because I was born posh. Which means over the water. I was born on the Wirral which is across the Mersey. But all my family are from Liverpool so I like to think of myself as Liverpudlian and I love going back up there.”

“As a kid my parents would take me to pantomimes, and I learned to read with Thomas The Tank Engine, books so I remember thinking ‘oh I want to be an engine driver’.

“Then they took me to pantomimes. I used to love those pantomime people.
I remember ‘Cinderella’ and Buttons. Buttons was wearing this beautiful blue suit.

“Then when I was 8, I was taken to Stratford upon Avon to see my first Shakespeare and it was Sir Michael Redgrave (Vanessa Redgrave’s dad) playing Hamlet. I just thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. Apparently I got up and said to my elocution teacher ‘That’s smashing’ and she went ‘SSHHH!!!!!’ That was the combination that made me want to act.

“My mum and dad always encouraged me. My dad when we were living in Chester built me a small theatre at the top of the house and wrote me plays. My two passions at school were rowing and acting.”

Acting Dynasty

“I do have a connection with the film business. My great grandfather, on my father’s side, built some of the first cinemas in Liverpool. The cinema chain was called Empress Cinemas. No longer there sadly. Thomas Halliwell Hughes was his name and my dad idolised him. I can vaguely remember him as a little boy though, just this shadowy figure.”

“When I performed Bernstein’s ‘Candide’ with the Liverpool Philharmonic, someone in the chorus came up to me and said ‘I used to know your great grandfather, I worked for him in one of his cinemas’. I was very proud.”

First Lesson in Fighting

“When we moved down to Essex the only school that would accept my scholarship was called Forest in Snaresbrook, and they wouldn’t let me be in the school play, because I was a day boy and only boarders could be in the play. I felt it was ridiculous. That was my first lesson in fighting really. I remember saying to dad, well I can’t stay here because I’m not allowed to act, and he said well you have to start your own group then don’t t you. I thought of course I have.”

“So I started a group for the day boys. I went to the Headmaster and asked him and he said, yes. Then I wrote to Sir Michael Redgrave and asked if I could start
The Redgrave Society. No reply. After about fifteen letters I eventually got a reply written in red biro, saying:

‘Dear Nickolas Grace,
I suppose I am head of the clan. Yes I give you permission to start the Redgrave Society’.

“Then I went straight to Vanessa, because I was secretly in love with her, and said:

‘Dear Vanessa,

Your dad has given me permission to start the Redgrave Society, will you please be Patron, and she said I would love to be. When can I come and work with you at school?’

“I went back to the headmaster and told him that Sir Michael Redgrave had given me permission to start The Redgrave Society. He looked very surprised, and said ‘oh good’.

“I put up a notice on the school notice board saying, The Redgrave Society, patrons, Sir Michael Redgrave and Vanessa Redgrave. We probably had about 20 members at 15p a time to start with.

“When Vanessa said she would come and work with the society, I put up a notice on the board, saying ‘Vanessa Redgrave talks to The Redgrave Society’. Members only, please sign underneath. Overnight we had 500 boys, including boarders. If they wanted to join, I let them. I didn’t mind.
“I got girls in as well even though it was a boys school, I didn’t want boys playing girls parts, so I asked if I could write to all the headmistresses of all the local schools in Essex. Woodford, Loughton, Leyton, I wrote to them all.
“They all asked me to go and see them. Some of them were a little bit protective of their girls. In the first play we did, in the first year, we got one girl from Leyton County and the next year we got four or five and the year I left we got about five or six. So of course the guys wanted to join because there were girls in the society. A lot of the school masters were upset that I had brought girls into the school. I had broken the rules. Hooray!
“Years later when I told Sir Cameron Mackintosh, he said: ‘You should have been a fucking producer, Grace, not an actor!’”

Read the entire interview here: Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

Getting Personal with Valentine Guinness

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Public Description caught up with the multi talented playwright and singer Valentine Guinness shortly after the stage reading of his upcoming new play ‘Christine’ at The Tristan Bates Theatre, directed by Nickolas Grace.

Read on to learn about Valentines’ latest projects and what has been keeping him so busy:

How did you first get started into becoming a playwright?

I was always interested in drama when I was at school. I did a lot of acting in those days. I kind of had a choice, when I was at college, whether to go down the drama line or carry on with my singing and song writing. Somehow it felt that it was almost too much to do both at the same time.

While I was at Uni, I had a band and we actually got a record deal, and it was all looking very very good so I thought that was going to be my future. I did that for a while, but then the band I was in broke up as they often do. After a while everyone starts arguing, ha-ha, so I thought well, what am I going to do. So I had always wanted to try my hand at writing drama so I just sat down and I said to myself I am not going to do what I did with the music which is try to please people. I am not going to sit down and try and write a play that is just going to please the critics. I’m saying to myself if I went to the theatre, would I enjoy this. Would I feel I had spent my money wisely on this? So I wrote Helping Harry it was a few years back now in 2001.

I believe Nickolas Grace was involved with Helping Harry?

In those days, I lived in Bayswater and I knew he was a neighbour of mine, I had got to know him and I was always a great fan of Nickolas Grace from his old days in Robin Hood and Brideshead Revisited. I was a bit star struck actually. So I used to bump into him in the newsagents and we got chatting, and knew that alongside his acting, he also taught at Drama College. So I thought the first person who I am going to get to read this play is NG as I am sure he will give me an honest opinion and he was really nice about it. So we started work on it, we sat on many occasions going through it, and he helped me a lot change it and cut it. Then we did a rehearsed reading at The Tristan Bates Theatre, and Harold Pinter (the playwright) came to see it. A bit scary and he wrote me a letter to say how much he really enjoyed it. So all really happy with that, so then NG and I went ahead and produced it. We put it on for a month at the Jermyn Theatre. We got amazing reviews for the entire month.

Unfortunately we couldn’t extend it, because in those sorts of theatres, you have taken your month and someone is coming in immediately after. So NG and I tried to transfer it to a bigger theatre in the west end, but that is a very difficult thing to do. Ass what you now have to do to transfer something into the west end, is you have to get a major film or TV star in it, especially if you are an unknown writer. So it is a difficult one as the theatre owners and the producers will say we can’t sell this unless we have a household name in it. It’s annoying.

So this play Christine has been knocking around in my head for some time, and so last year I said to myself I really want to knock this together so I got together with NG again.

Christine is based on these four characters that have run away from their life, and find each other; not really a refuge but it is still a very claustrophobic existence. I based it a little, on my summer holidays that I used to spend in North East Spain region. It was sort of the end of the line and one of those places that all these wandering people turn up to and never leave.

What else has been keeping you busy?

Well, I wrote the screen play of George Orwell’s novel, Burmese Days which I got the permission from the estate to do. So I have spent a lot of time on that. It is still yet to be made but my screen play is out there if anyone wants to make it.

Then there is of course the band I am in with Loyd Grossman. The New Forbidden. I have been very busy with the band, so the play writing has at times gone on the back burner.

Another thing I am in the middle of doing is, I am working with Julian Fellows (Downton Abbey) on a television series which we are trying now to get commissioned by one of the broadcasters, and it is called Love Lessons. It is based on my aunt Joan Wyndham. My aunty was a 19yr old during the 2nd WW living in Central London and she wrote these fantastically funny diaries of what it was like being that age, just between a teenager and a woman, and growing up when the war started, and the bombs started falling and everyone was being taken off to war. But the stories are warm and funny. Its light comedy but all true.

She had a journal under her bed, and lived with her mum just off of Fulham road. One of her comments from her journals was ‘I wonder if I am going to lose my virginity first or get killed by a bomb’.

She hanged out with painters, and sculptors, and disreputable people, bohemian, and they all tried to seduce her one by one. It’s a very funny but heart-warming story.

Joan, rebelled against her strict catholic upbringing and led this fun bohemian lifestyle

She died in 2007, but I had already started working on it with her. I used to sit in her kitchen, and talk through her journals which I knew better than she did as she hadn’t read them in quite a long time.

I approached Julian Fellows as I felt he was just the person to do this justice, and I gave him the book which he took with him on holiday and Julian told me he laughed out loud the whole time he was reading it. So that’s a good sign.

I am also releasing a solo album this year, if there wasn’t enough to do. The album has been done with this fantastic producer Geoffrey Haslam who also worked with us on the band. The style with be much more introverted, slower, romantic and more acoustic which we would never do in the band. So I got together with Geoff and we put nine of mine and 2 other tracks and recorded them. A few of the tracks are from my old bands which I thought were too good to leave behind. Geoff has been fantastic and he has produced it so beautifully.

So the track we are putting out as it were is called ‘Good Morning London’. Next month we are going to do a video of it and You Tube it. It’s a happy summer song and we are going to try and make an interesting video to go with it ha-ha.

I’m also working on a sitcom. It’s in the early stages. Basically based on me ha-ha. What I have done over the past years is I have collected every strange incident that has happened to me and there has been a few and I have written these down. I thought the character in the show his son would be in a terrible bad. So we have written a pilot of that. I think it might work.

So there’s a lot bubbling around.

So tell me more about The New Forbidden?

Well we were very lucky as we have been invited to play back at Glastonbury for the 4th time this year. We have such a great time there. We started off with very low expectations.

How would you describe the music genre?

We are not a punk band. It’s fast guitar rock, with catchy tunes. Our influence is Lou Reed, even The Killers. I have two daughters and at first they were worried dad would embarrass them, but they started listening to our music and playing our stuff to their friends so they then had to admit it was alright ha-ha.

Describe your musical influence?

I grew up listening to The Doors, the Velvet underground, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. Then in the 80’s when I was in my 20’s I guess I was really into The Smiths. I thought their song writing was excellent. But now I am really into The Killers.

Where was your first live gig with The New Forbidden?

We did quite a few warm up acts before our big one in Blackpool. So our first live gig together as a band was on Friday 13th June called, so I will never forget the date, at The 12 bar club in Denmark Street. It was absolutely packed, but it’s not very difficult to pack The 12 bar club ha-ha.

When producing music, where do you get your inspiration?

I have stacks of lyric ideas which I will either scribble down, and then I will then just pick up the guitar and leaf through the sheet of lyrics and try one of them to a guitar sequence. Sometimes you go down a dead end, and an hour later, you say to yourself, ‘no, I’ll try again tomorrow’ ha-ha, but sometimes suddenly there’s the chorus and the title. I usually start with the title and work backwards.

You have so much going on, how do you prioritise all of this?

I have always run my life as if I was at school and you had to write an essay, and you always do it at the last minute ha-ha. It’s probably not such a good idea to think about it all of the time. Just concentrate on one thing a day.

Yourself and the band are crazily busy but do you think there might be an opportunity for an interview and for you to perform live at the Phoenix FM studios in Brentwood?

Definitely. Loyd and I could definitely come down. An interview definitely.

Thank you for kindly sitting for this interview and we wish you much success with all your projects.

The New Forbidden

Interview: All about Rokuro

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Public Description caught up with the talented and thoroughly lovely Brighton, DJ Rokuro. Find out what he is up to here:

Why the name Rokuro?

My parents thought it would be funny to give me a silly japanese name. But it turned out to be really cool;-)

Where does your passion/inspiration for music come from?

Nowhere in particular if I’m honest, I just create whatever style of music I feel like when I wake up in the morning. It’s mainly electronic of some kind. I don’t really have any inspirations but I like my music to have some kind of funky, soulful or retro vibe to it when possible. Thats what comes most natural to me, and I’m not afraid to make dance tracks at 110bpm where as like some other producers it has to be a certain speed like 128 or 140 bpm or whatever it dosn’t have to be a certain style. But just at the moment I listen to chilled house with acoustic guitars and Deep House alot, I find everything else a tad noisy for my delicate ears…;-)

 When did you first get into music?  

I used to like Blondie, Adam and the Ants and Depeche Mode when I was about 6 years old. My Sister who’s a bit older than me got me into this really odd band called Japan, Which is a bit of a coincidence;-) I had a badge of theirs and everything, ha ..then I got onto melodic hiphop like the artist Mantronix and Joyce sims then onto Acid House. I even got into Trance for a while. To be Honest I’ve liked all styles of music over the years apart from Rock, Country, D&B, Jungle, Dubstep and that Trap stuff. Saying that I just put a dub step breakdown in a new track I was working on recently, well it sounds like dub step to me, to a proper dubstep producer it probably sounds like Britney Spears;)


If you could collaborate with any artist, past or present, who would you choose and why? 

I think at the moment, Katy B. I wasn’t into her 1st album at all, But I really love the old school house vibe on the Little Red album, so I definitely think I’d have something to offer her productions, I think She’s really fresh, plus she’s definetly getting better with age.

Do you have a most proud moment/achievement since being in the music industry to date? 

Well I have got to travel around the world 10 times over and got paid for it. So I’d have to say that’s an achievement.  I have done official remixes for some huge pop  and electronic acts in the past, and I guess Im still at it, making a living.  So thats a bonus.

Any new artists, you’ve been listening to recently which you recommend looking out for? 

I guess the people I’m collaborating with at the moment need the shout out, Celeste and PGX from Malibu. I do a more EDM sounding progressive house style with them, Paul Ewing from London. We do a more Funky old school anything goes type of house sound. Which is great fun as we don’t really care what style it is, as long as it sounds half decent;-) A great DJ Called Gui S Arruda, from Brazil. He’s one to watch in 2014,  also Elise from London, is amazing.  (she’s also Tom Jones Singer on his live shows and production tracks) We Are Doing a couple of things together at the moment.

Do you have any musical guilty pleasures? now, be honest;) 

Ruth Lorenzo , who came 5th in the UK Xfactor, and recently represented Spain in The Eurovision song contest;-)

What can we expect to see from Rokuro next? 

Im working on too many projects to mention just at the moment, I put up new stuff all the time on my soundcloud page, so best just to follow me on there I think…I also have a monthly column and contribute on a great new dance and electronic magazine called Audiation.  I List all my fave new tracks of the month on there, plus let people from around the world know all the biggest dance tracks that are getting in the UK pop charts, and lots of other fun stuff like DJ charts etc, Maybe you can give me your top 10 for next month Elle? 😉

soundcloud.com/rokuro

Interview: ASTR

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Who are ASTR?

ASTR is an electronic future r&b group made up of Zoe (vocals) and Adam (beats)

Who decided on the name ASTR?

we decided together after many lists of scribble and contemplation.  Astr comes from the greek goddess of the stars, Asteria – but also is relevant because the studio where we first worked together was near Astor Place in NYC.

How did you meet?

We met through a mutual friend who introduced us at a yoga studio in NYC. It took a few hangs to get to know each other and from there we started getting together at the studio and seeing what happened. It became pretty obvious we had a lot of similar musical taste so that made it things work out nicely.

Where does your passion/inspirations for music come from?

You never know where or how inspiration will come to you. Sometimes its music sometimes movies or photography. Every day in NYC there’s something you notice or something happens that can turn on a lightbulb. Being in the city is something we credit for shaping our songs and ideas.

And how did you get into music?

Our paths to where we both are now have been very different but we each were in bands before and we both have been writing on our before we met. But both of our families were, in one way or another, musical and that helped shape things quite a bit.

What kind of music did you use to listen to as teenagers (and be very truthful)?

I listened to Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and lots of Dipset. Growing up around my mother I listened to a lot of soul artists such as Donny Hathaway and Jill Scott. Adam listened to a lot of hip hop, R&B and disco but also heard a lot of Jazz as his father was a Jazz head with tons of LP’s around the house. He played guitar as a kid and also listened to a lot of classic rock and psychedelic music.

ASTR have a unique and distinctive sound, where do you get your inspirations, sounds and ideas from and also how you would describe your sound?

Like a lot of musicians, our sound is mix of our influences. Subconsciously we mash up what we like and it just is what it is. We generally don’t think about the songs we write when we start them but just let the ideas happen the way they want to happen. We are inspired by tension, and struggle and victory. I think we write anthemic music that is both dark and triumphant at the same time.

When I first heard OPERATE back in April 2013, I instantly fell in love with your style, sound and I also believed I was the first person to play your track in the UK during my PhoenixFM show “The Fashion Zone”.  Who was behind your video and do you plan in making other videos from your Varsity EP?

We actually made that video ourselves with our friends.  Adam had collected a bunch of B-Movie and horror footage and that was cut up with footage we shot our friends basement. The goal was to create some sort of psychological thriller that was provocative. We are working on some new videos now so you will definitely see more soon but they will all be different stylistically.

How long did it take to complete your first EP entitled Varsity?

We weren’t consciously working on an ep. Over the last 2 years we had just been writing music and refining the songs we liked. Some we left behind, some just didn’t make it on the EP but we felt this batch of songs encapsulated the early period of us writing and the best songs of that chapter of ASTR.

How do you feel when you check out Soundcloud and see over 1.5 million listens to your Varsity EP?

It’s really great to know that people are listening – before we put any music out we wondered what the response would be and we are really glad people listened and liked our songs.

Where was your first live gig?

We played our first at Santos Party House back in June for Pop Shop, which is a night our would be label Neon Gold throws.

If you could collaborate with any artist, past or present, who would you choose and why?

Amy Winehouse because there is a depth to her writing and pain in her voice that would amount to something really deep. Or we would take shots and not get a damn thing done – that happens.

When producing music, what inspires you to make new tracks? Do you work at home, or do you have a studio space where you get into a creative mindset or is it something simple as in the shower or bath?

We just play around a find whatever feels good, sometimes we will hear something when we are out or we’ll listen to old records and get inspired from the vibe or some specific synth. We work out of a few studios but typically its better to work out a regular space that is comfortable. Writing is sometimes easy when it just comes fluidly. That’ always when the best stuff comes out. It’s real and under thought but sometimes you hit a wall and it takes forever to regain clear perspective. Thats when you might say no, this isn’t that good or worse, it IS that good and you’ve exhausted your enthusiasm for it. We have a few of those collecting dust in the pile.

Any new artists, you’ve been listening to recently which you recommend looking out for?

Rich Homie Quan had a big record in the states called Some Type Of Way – its dope. Some of his other songs are cool – he may not be known out in UK yet so check him out.

2014 is going to be a successful year for Astr.   You’re doing some live gigs this year in LA, Boston & UK. What are the dates & venues, you’ll be performing at?

We are playing Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco, Echoplex in LA and some other smaller cities. We want to do more in UK so bring us back, ok?

When you visit the UK, we would love to have you live on Phoenix FM for any interview.  What do you think?

Let’s do it

Apart from touring, do you have any other projects lined up?

We have some collaborations we are lining up but it’s really 24/7 ASTR because we want to finish a full length this year. With all the other stuff that comes with touring and traveling it’s now becoming a bit more challenging to get in good work time in the studio.

Anything else, you wish to convey to your fans?

Stay tuned!

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